The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Federal Inland Revenue Service on Wednesday failed to appear before a committee of the House of Representatives investigating the allegations of harassment made against them by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience.
When appearances were called by the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, nobody appeared for the EFCC and FIRS.
The committee had earlier wrote the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, and top officials of FIRS as well as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to appear before it to answer questions on the petition.
However, it was only the NDLEA that sent a Director, Mr. Femi Oloruntoba, to defend the actions of the anti-narcotics agency.
Mrs. Jonathan, in a petition laid before the House on July 6, had complained of “relentless” harassment by agents of the Federal Government, particularly the EFCC, NDLEA and FIRS.
She also alleged that there were assassination plots against her, besides attempts by the EFCC to frustrate her efforts to secure a United Kingdom visa.
Patience stated that the harassment started soon after her husband left office in May 2015.
Mrs. Jonathan’s petition was laid before the House by a lawmaker from Rivers State, Mr. Gogo Bright-Tamuno, on behalf of her lawyers, Granville Abibo.
The House, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, admitted the petition and referred it to the Nkem-Abonta Committee on Public Petitions for hearing.
She had claimed that on many occasions, the EFCC’s Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, ordered raids to be carried out on property linked to her or her relations in a bid to ridicule her.
She stated that the raids were in addition to the freezing of all her bank accounts, non-governmental organisations and those of companies owned by her relations in violation of legal procedures.
Mrs. Jonathan further alleged that raids on her property were often carried out in the absence of the occupants of such properties with “spurious” court orders.
The former President’s wife complained that she had yet to know why out of all the “former first ladies” in Nigeria, she was the only one singled out for harassment by the agents of government.
The petitioner cited 13 of such instances, one of which she said was the February 2017 report against her by Magu to the authorities in the UK to “forestall the renewal of her visa and other travelling documents.”
The petition read partly, “Only recently, on the 8th and 9th June, 2017, the EFCC commenced another fresh orchestration of raids on the personal properties of the NGOs of our client situate at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Expressway, Mabuchi by Setraco Junction, Abuja and ransacked the building.
“They placed seals around it, all without any lawful court order or summons. The recent action has agitated the urgent need for this petition to your office. The harassment against our client has persisted unabated.”
At the opening of the hearing on Wednesday, her lawyer, Mr. Sammie Somiari, told the committee that Patience stood by all the she wrote in the petition.
“We hereby adopt the petition we sent to the House. Our concern is the lack of due process, search warrant and the illegality of the raids on the properties of our client, her associates and family members by these agencies of government,” he told the committee.
But, the NDLEA defended the raids, saying that by the provision of Section 44(1) of its Act, the agency could search any property without a warrant.
Oloruntoba admitted that a property belonging to an associate of Patience was searched on November 30, 2016 after the NDLEA got information that some illicit drugs were stored there.
He claimed that the agency did not know that the property was linked to Mrs. Jonathan or her associate.
He explained, “Our ID card is our search warrant. This is because delay can make suspects to tamper with the evidence. Our operation is in line with international best practices. But, we didn’t find anything incriminating in the building.”
When the committee asked him the nature of information the NDLEA acted upon, the director replied that he could only divulge it in camera.
The committee also asked whether the agency apologised to the owner of the property after it could not find any drugs there, Oloruntoba said the circumstances did not make the writing of an apology compulsory.
The House committee later adjourned the hearing to September 16.
On the absence of the EFCC and FIRS, Nkem-Abonta said the committee would take a decision on it.